Third of GPs have links to private health companies that could make millions from the Government’s health reforms
More than a third of GPs have links to private firms that stand to make millions treating NHS patients, figures show.
Many are directors or shareholders of companies providing out-of-hours care, skin-care services or hip replacements.
Over the coming months such firms are expected to carry out an increasing amount of NHS work as part of the Government’s health reforms.
Conflict: A study by the British Medical Journal found that of the 1,179 GPs in executive roles, 36 per cent have links with companies likely to do NHS work under reforms
But as GPs will be responsible for deciding which companies are used, there is fear of a conflict of interest.
Doctors may be inclined to offer contracts to firms in which they have a financial interest, knowing they will personally benefit from any profits.
From April 1, GPs will control millions of pounds of the NHS budget.
They have formed Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) that will decide which treatments and services are provided in their local area.
The reforms also seek more involvement of private firms to encourage competition and drive up standards.
But of the 1,179 GPs in executive roles, 36 per cent have links with companies likely to do NHS work, the British Medical Journal has found.
A number of them are directors or shareholders of firms providing out-of-hours cover. Others are on the boards of companies providing hip replacements, specialist diabetes care, sexual health services or minor operations.
MPs and senior doctors have called on GPs with ties to private firms to stand down from their executive roles in the new organisations.
Labour health spokesman Andy Burnham said patients and the public would be shocked by the potential conflict of interest.
‘To uphold public trust, ministers must bring in new rules to ensure that no GP takes part in any decision in which they could be perceived to have a financial interest,’ he added.
Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said: ‘In our view, GPs who are directors of, or who have significant financial interests in, companies who might be awarded contracts to provide services should seriously consider their membership of CCG governing bodies.
‘Alternatively, they should consider their position within provider companies.’
A spokesman for the NHS Commissioning Board, the new body overseeing GPs, said: ‘CCGs are under clear duties to ensure that they manage any potential conflicts of interest in ways that preserve the integrity of their decision-making processes.’
It is vital that everyone working for a CCG or serving on its governing body ‘declares any interests’, he added.